Population Outlook 2050: more people with a migration background

© Hollandse Hoogte / Ramon van Flymen
The number of inhabitants with a migration background is highly likely to increase until the year 2050. Depending on how immigration develops in the future, this number is projected to rise from 4.2 million in 2020 to between 5.3 and 8.4 million in 2050. The composition of this group is going to change, however. This is evident from the report ‘Verkenning Bevolking 2050' ('Dutch Population Outlook 2050’) compiled by the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) at the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.
During parliamentary discussions with the Cabinet in 2018 on government policies, the House of Representatives asked the Cabinet to depict the impact of changes in the size and composition of the population towards the year 2050. On behalf of nine different ministries, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment then asked NIDI to coordinate such research. As part of this research, NIDI and CBS set up seven different demographic scenarios, each based on a differently composed set of three variants: birth rate, life expectancy and net international migration. These projections are supplementary to the existing population forecasts by CBS.


Seven demographic scenarios in the Dutch Population Outlook 2050Seven demographic scenarios in the Dutch Population Outlook 2050 Growth High birth rate, life expectancy and migration Scenario Features Decline Low birth rate, life expectancy and migration Green High birth rate and low life expectancy Grey Low birth rate and high life expectancy Low migration Low net migration Labour High labour and student migration Asylum High asylum migration Source: NIDI, CBS birth rate life expectancy migrationzeven Varianten bevolkingsgroei_ENSeven demographic scenarios in the Dutch Population Outlook 2050GrowthHigh birth rate, life expectancy and migrationScenarioFeaturesDeclineLow birth rate, life expectancy and migrationGreenHigh birth rate and low life expectancyGreyLow birth rate and high life expectancyLow migrationLow net migrationLabourHigh labour and student migrationAsylumHigh asylum migrationSource: NIDI, CBSbirth ratelife expectancymigration

Dutch population with migration background set to grow by 1 to 4 million

At the start of 2020, the population of the Netherlands stood at 17.4 million, including over 4 million (24 percent) people with a migration background. This group is defined as inhabitants with one or two foreign-born parents. Relatively low net migration (on average 16 thousand per year as of 2019) would let this group increase to slightly over 5 million; high immigration (net 93 thousand per year) would mean an increase to over 8 million.

Population of the Netherlands
CategorieNative Dutch background (x million)Migration background (x million)
CBS forecast12.366.99
Low net migration12.305.33
Source: CBS, NIDI

Dutch population with migration background to constitute 30 to 40 percent

In the seven demographic scenarios defined in this study, by 2050 the Dutch population will range between 17.1 and 21.6 million. The native Dutch population will stand at 11.2 to 13.4 million depending on how the birth rate and life expectancy in this group will develop. There were 13.2 million inhabitants with a native Dutch background at the start of 2020.

In the case of low immigration, the share with a migration background will rise from 24 percent in 2020 to 30 percent in 2050; in case of high immigration, to 40 percent of the population.

Changing composition of the group with a migration background

The list of countries from which immigrants arrive in the Netherlands has been changing, resulting in a higher diversity in migration backgrounds. As of this moment, 60 percent of the inhabitants with a migration background have roots in either the western EU member states or in the classic countries of origin for the Netherlands (Indonesia, Suriname, the former Netherlands Antilles, Turkey and Morocco).

This composition is changing as a result of EU enlargement, an increased inflow of labour migrants and student migrants from continents such as Latin America and Asia, as well as the higher inflow of asylum migrants from the Middle East and Africa. By 2050, less than half of the population with a migration background will have roots in EU member states or in any of the classic migrant groups. These groups will constitute a share of slightly under 40 percent in case of high immigration up to slightly under 50 percent in the lowest immigration scenario.

Population with migration background
CategoriesWestern EU (x million)Classic origin countries (x million)Eastern EU (x million)Africa and Middle East (x million)Other origin countries (x million)
CBS forecast1.111.921.011.361.60
Low net migration0.911.720.770.911.03
Source: CBS, NIDI

Migration background: both first and second generation will increase

The group of first-generation immigrants (people born outside the Netherlands) is projected to grow in the different scenarios from 2.3 million in 2020 to somewhere between 3.1 and 4.9 million in 2050. The second generation, i.e. born in the Netherlands but with a migration background, will grow from 2.0 million in 2020 to somewhere between 2.7 and 3.5 million.

Population with a migration background, first/second generation
Categorie1st generation (x million)2nd generation (x million)
CBS forecast3.893.10
Low immigration2.632.70
Source: CBS, NIDI

Coronavirus and population dynamics

The calculations in this study were made before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis. This pandemic has caused excess deaths and posed restrictions on international migration. The long-term impact is still highly unclear. This study already takes account of wide error margins, however.